BACKGROUND: Esophageal biomechanical studies are important to understand structural changes resulting from stretches during repair of esophageal atresias as well as to obtain values to compare with the biomechanics of tissue-engineered esophagus in the future. This study aimed to investigate light microscopic changes after uniaxial stretching of the ovine esophagus.
METHODS: In vitro uniaxial stretching was performed on esophagi (n = 20) of 1-month-old lambs within 4-6 h post-mortem. Esophagi were divided into 5 groups: control and stretched (1.1, 1.2, 1.3 and 1.4). Force and lengthening were measured with 5 cycles performed on every specimen using a PBS organ bath at 37 °C. Histological studies were performed on the 5 groups.
RESULTS: Low forces of ~ 2 N (N) were sufficient for a 1.2-1.25 stretch in the 1st cycle, whereas a three times higher force (~ 6 N) was needed for a stretch of 1.3. In the 2nd to 5th cycle, the tissue weakened and a force of ~ 3 N was sufficient for a stretch of 1.3. Histologically, in the 1.3-1.4 stretch groups, rupture of muscle fibers and capillaries were observed, respectively. Changes in mucosa and collagen fibers could not be observed.
CONCLUSIONS: These results offer norm values from the native esophagus to compare with the biomechanics of future tissue-engineered esophagus. Esophageal stretching > 1.3 leads to tears in muscle fibers and to rupture of capillaries. These findings can explain the decrease in microcirculation and scarring in mobilized tissue and possibly offer clues to impaired motility in esophagus atresias repaired under excessive tension.
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